Part 1: The Apartment
Roger’s phone began to ring at an unusual hour. He shot upright and grabbed the clunky bakelite receiver off the bedside table.
“Who is this?”
“Who am I speaking with?” Her voice was curt and official.
“Who is this?” Roger was groggy.
“My name is Detective Martinez with the 13th Metro Police Precinct. May I please speak with Roger Lauds?”
He sat up in bed. He was still very groggy. Tired. Breathless.
“This is Roger. What’s going on?” Slits of streetlight shone through dusty blinds. The detective didn’t skip a beat, but a thousand years had passed since the phone woke Roger up.
“Mr. Lauds, we would like to send a squad car to come escort you to the station, if you would please come down to the station. We need you for questioning.”
“It’s… it’s pronounced ‘louds,’” Roger stammered. “What is this about?” He flashed his eyes at the clock; the LED clicked from 2:22 to 2:23am.
“It’s about your daughter, Samantha Ross. We need you to come down to the station and answer a few questions. A car will be outside in five minutes to pick you up.”
Dread set in. She had already been missing for hours, but this was the first Roger had heard of his daughter’s plight.
“I’ll… I’ll get ready.”
She hung up immediately with a hollow click. An old dial tone remained. He took a second and fumbled with his fingers. The heavy receiver clicked loudly into the landline base.
Getting ready meant slapping a tattered pair of New Balance around his ankles and throwing on a stained morning hoodie suitable for dog walks and 7-11 trips, the most he’d been ready for in years. He hurt his back getting out of bed, inevitably. It was already a frightening night. Two oxys and a tall glass of Diet Coke down the hatch and things were bearable again. Roger locked both locks twice, shimmied down the creaking wooden stairs and met the cops who had already parked outside the apartment complex. An ominous ride awaited. He just wanted answers. The officers nodded to Roger as he approached the car, courteously opening the door for him.
Nothing was out of the ordinary for the neighborhood at large. Onlookers in their own stained hoodies didn’t flinch as Roger rolled away, popping their own pills, drinking their own Diet Cokes. Sad, old remains, forgotten men playing dice games outside of housing projects and warning signs targeted at parents: keep out and punishments are doubled here.
The two officers escorting Roger wouldn’t answer any of his questions, no crooked smiles and half laughs about the poor unknowing soul in the back seat, like he feared. They just didn’t know. They just came to pick him up. Radioes blared with codes and instructions. The officers responded in kind.
He hadn’t really spoken to his daughter Samantha in a long time. She was young when Roger made his first mistake, forgetting to ask for identification, and still young enough to forgive when he made his second, finding a prostitute on such an obvious website haunted by the feds. Families and partners can only take so much stress, and Roger laid it on thick. Yesterday, he dropped off her fifteenth birthday card in the mail. Roger hadn’t been invited to her birthday in a long while, and the presents kept being returned to his shitty address.
It was a shorter drive than he remembered, but never a ride he took for granted.
The detective wore a snazzy blue suit jacket; she met Roger at the entrance to the precinct, hand outstretched. He was transfixed on her paisley pocket square, but turned his eyes towards the sky so as to not let her think he was staring at her chest.
“My name is Detective Carol Martinez. You’re Mr. Lauds?”
She had a custom holster. It looked very expensive, the kind you’d get on Etsy from a cabin-dweller in Oregon complete with handmade paper receipt.
“I’m Roger. Where’s Samantha? Where’s my daughter?”
Finally. Someone with answers.
“Come inside and I’ll discuss the situation. We are on a very tight clock.” Martinez did that thing where she tapped her wrist with clamped-together index and middle fingers, despite no actual watch attached to her arm. She ushered him in. There was only lamp light and pitch black outside. No stars. The stars were all gone.
Continued in part 2